The Washington Capitals have re-signed center Lars Eller to a five-year, $17.5 million contract, general manager Brian MacLellan announced Saturday.
Eller’s new contract will pay him an average annual salary of $3.5 million and locks him in as not only Washington’s third line center, a position they’ve had vacant for a long time before Eller, but one of their best depth players. The Capitals acquired Eller in a trade made during the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
The 28-year-old has registered 11 goals and 28 points so far and is on pace for a career-high 17 goals and 43 points. He has been a huge asset for the Capitals so far this season, going on lengthy point streaks and putting in a strong effort night in and night out.
“He’s playing hard and heavy,” head coach Barry Trotz said of Eller. “It’s hard to get the puck from him, he’s skating, he’s hanging onto it, he’s winning his battles and he’s playing a determined game.”
Eller has been leading the charge as Washington’s third line center, and his unit has been one of the Capitals’ best lines and has not looked like a bottom-six trio. His chemistry with Brett Connolly has made that unit a constant offensive threat and a line that has received constant praise from Trotz.
“I just think we’ve been playing really good hockey,” Connolly said of the third line’s success. “We’ve had some good timing with our play, so I think we’ve been a pretty good line.”
Not only has Eller shown a strong connection with Connolly, but his skill and versatility, as well as his ability to take good care of the puck and maintain control, show that he can play with pretty much anyone and make his linemates better to boot.
“I think it’s a strength for us that there’s so many ways to put this line together,” Eller said.
Winger T.J. Oshie is the perfect example; following struggles in early January, Trotz put Oshie on the third line to reignite the spark and generate more offense from the 33-year-old, and it worked.
“Osh is a guy that has moved down,” Trotz said of Oshie’s switch to the third line, but then added, “I shouldn’t even say moved down because Lars is playing so well.”
Eller said that he was “looking to shoot a little more” this season and it has since paid off, evident by a lengthy four-game scoring streak in January and an offensive surge that hasn’t slowed yet as the Capitals move into the latter part of the season and closer to the playoffs.
“It always feels good to score goals,” Eller said.
Washington will remain home for the next five years, and for Eller, who has now been with the Capitals for two seasons, home is where the Capitals have seen an almost inexplicable amount of success this year, with a 20-8-1 record.
“Everybody’s just feeling it,” Eller said of the team’s home ice success. “The crowd is always good here. We’re a good home team, we like playing here.”
And, from the looks of it, so does Eller.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.